· Vatican City ·

Grateful for his ministry among NZ’s flock

 Grateful for his ministry among NZ’s flock   ING-001
05 January 2024

On Saturday, 23 December, Pope Francis addressed a telegram to the Archbishop of Wellington, Msgr Paul Gerald Martin, s.m. The Pope offered his condolences following the death of New Zealand Cardinal Thomas Stafford Williams, who passed away on Friday, 22 December, at the age of 93. The following is the English text of the Holy Father’s message.

Saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal Thomas Stafford Williams, Archbishop emeritus of Wellington, I send prayerful condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the archdiocese. Recalling with immense gratitude the late Cardinal’s many years of priestly and episcopal ministry among Christ’s flock in New Zealand and his contribution to the Church throughout Oceania, I willingly join you in commending his noble soul to the love and mercy of our heavenly Father. To all who mourn Cardinal Williams in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Risen Lord.

Cardinal Thomas Stafford Williams, Archbishop emeritus of Wellington and Military Ordinary emeritus for New Zealand, was born on 20 March 1930 in Wellington.

He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce Degree at Victoria University of Wellington, and worked for some years as an accountant. He was deeply involved in the Catholic Youth Movement ( ycw ) and for a period worked full-time for the movement.

In 1954 he commenced studies for the priesthood at the National Seminary, Holy Cross College in Dunedin, and in 1956 was sent to the Pontifical Urban University where he obtained a licentiate in theology.

He was ordained a priest on 20 December 1959. He then attended University College, Dublin and received a degree in social sciences.

Returning to Wellington, he served as assistant pastor and Director of Studies at the Catholic Enquiry Center, which had already brought the light of faith to many non-Catholics. He left that post when he volunteered to serve as a missionary in Western Samoa (today the Archdiocese of Samoa-Apia), where he was parish priest for 5 years.

Upon returning to Wellington at the end of 1975 he served as parish priest at Porirua East, one of the Archdiocese’s most multi-cultural parishes. Four years later, on 30 October 1979 he was appointed Archbishop of Wellington and was ordained on 20 December.

He was President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, 1980-1988; founding President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania, 1990-1998; President Delegate of the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops (November-December 1998); Archbishop emeritus of Wellington, 21 March 2005; Military Ordinary emeritus for New Zealand, 1 April 2005.

He participated in the conclave of April 2005, which elected Pope Benedict xvi .

He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Saint John Paul ii in the Consistory of 2 February 1983, of the Title of Gesù Divin Maestro alla Pineta Sacchetti (Jesus the Divine Teacher at Pineta Sacchetti).